Environment

  • Radioactive shale gas contaminants seep into a Pennsylvania creek

    Researchers examined the quality of shale gas wastewater from hydraulic fracturing and the stream water above and below the disposal site in western Pennsylvania. Elevated levels of radioactivity, salts, and metals have been found in river water and sediments at a site where treated water from oil and gas operations is discharged into a creek.

  • Making clean drinking water universally available “achievable”

    More than 780 million people around the world still do not have safe and reliable drinking water. The problem of providing clean water is most acute in developing countries, particularly in Africa, where creaking infrastructures struggle to keep pace with fast-growing urban populations; in rural areas, millions of water pumps stand unused waiting to be repaired.

  • Arbor Day meets Kyoto: Tree planting promotes carbon capture, green neighborhoods

    Schemes which offer economic incentives for growing trees for carbon present an opportunity to reverse trends in land clearing but also to restore ecosystem services — such as pest control, pollination, soil and water conservation. Best practice carbon farming that considers more than just the carbon in trees is thus needed if the full benefits of trees in the landscape are to be realized by farmers, landholders, and the community.

  • U.S. to face an increased risk of severe thunderstorms

    Severe thunderstorms, often exhibiting destructive rainfall, hail and tornadoes, are one of the primary causes of catastrophic losses in the United States. In 2012, eleven weather disasters in the United States crossed the billion-dollar threshold in economic losses. Seven of those events were related to severe thunderstorms. New climate analyses indicate that global warming is likely to cause a robust increase in the conditions that produce these types of storms across much of the country over the next century.

  • Calculating emissions, costs of increased wind, solar in the West

    New research quantifies the potential impacts of increasing wind and solar power generation on the operators of fossil-fueled power plants in the West. To accommodate higher amounts of wind and solar power on the electric grid, utilities must ramp down and ramp up or stop and start conventional generators more frequently to provide reliable power for their customers — a practice called cycling.

  • “In 30 years Iran will be a ghost town” if the country’s water situation does not improve

    Issa Kalantari, a former agriculture minister during the presidency of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani and currently and advisor to President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet, says Iran’s water crisis was especially grave. “Our main problem that threatens us, that is more dangerous than Israel, America or political fighting, is the issue of living in Iran. It is that the Iranian plateau is becoming uninhabitable”; “If this situation is not reformed, in 30 years Iran will be a ghost town.”

  • Missed opportunities to save water, energy

    Water and wastewater managers are missing substantial opportunities to save energy and money, according to a new report.The report also identifies significant gaps in knowledge about the amount of water used to extract energy resources such as natural gas, oil, and coal, and to generate electricity.

  • Flood insurance is not available to Canadian homeowners – should it be?

    Canada is the only G8 country in which insurance against overland flooding is not available to homeowners — but does it have to remain that way? A study released Monday explores issues related to flooding and property insurance, aiming to advance informed discussion of the potential better to protect Canadian homeowners. It reveals that while insurance executives are concerned about the lack of flood insurance and agree on many of the associated issues, opinions remain mixed concerning its viability in Canada.

  • Sewage treatment removes widely used home and garden insecticides from wastewater

    Even though sewage treatment plants are not designed to remove tiny amounts of pesticides, they do an excellent job of dealing with the most widely used family of home and garden insecticides, scientists reported. The use of pyrethrins, derived from chrysanthemum flowers, and the related synthetic pyrethroids, has been on the increase during the last decade. Researchers found that advanced sewage treatment reduced the levels of pyrethroids by more than 97 percent.

  • Calculating the cost of a ton of mountaintop removal coal

    To meet current U.S. coal demand through surface mining, an area of the Central Appalachians the size of Washington, D.C., would need to be mined every eighty-one days. This is about sixty-eight square miles — or roughly an area equal to ten city blocks mined every hour. A 1-year supply of coal would require converting about 310 square miles of the region’s mountains into surface mines.

  • Canada addresses environmental concerns over Keystone XL

    Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper sent a letter to President Barack Obama last month offering to participate in joint efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in order to win approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Harper’s offer may allow Obama to approve the project without having to confront environmental groups.

  • Calculating the energy required to store wind and solar power on the grid

    Renewable energy holds the promise of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. There are times, however, when solar and wind farms generate more electricity than is needed by consumers. Storing that surplus energy in batteries for later use seems like an obvious solution, but a new study from Stanford University suggests that might not always be the case.

  • New technique developed to assess the cost of major flood damage

    A new approach to calculating the cost of damage caused by flooding was presented at the International Conference of Flood Resilience: Experiences in Asia and Europe which was held last week. The methodology combines information on land use with data on the vulnerability of the area to calculate the cost of both past and future flooding events.

  • “Climate Change, Water Conflicts, and Human Security” report released

    Increasingly, climate change and the associated increase in the frequency of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and rising sea level, are acknowledged as not only having humanitarian impacts, but also creating national and regional political and security risks. While people and governments can adapt to these impacts, their capacity to do so varies.

  • Study links prehistoric climate shift to asteroid or comet impact

    For the first time, a dramatic climate shift which has long fascinated scientists has been linked to the impact in Quebec of an asteroid or comet. The event took place about 12,900 years ago, at the beginning of the Younger Dryas period, and marks an abrupt global change to a colder, dryer climate, with far-reaching effects on both animals and humans.